Andrew Sullivan posts this video: Violence Warning. Sullivan is creating a series (more here, here, and here). Second warning–the last link in that series is particularly horrific. I’ll simply link to them but not post any of them.
The comment Andrew makes concerning these videos is: This is Fascism. Fascism incarnate, live and in the flesh.
I think this is a valid assertion on his part and it brings up a point that has really irked me in blogospheric political debates over the last few years: the definition and use of the F word.
I don’t know if this trend that angers me so started with Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism, but it certainly gained a lot of momentum since then. Goldberg argued that was he was doing was giving an anatomy of fascism. It struck me as a kind of almost Plaontic endeavor: finding and describing the form of Fascism in a way.
Central to that argument was that fascism (a la Mussolini’s self-definition) was a merger of corporate and state interests.
Instead of as I have always thought the central point–in the actual practice of fascist governments was violence. And here I mean governments everybody would agree were Fascist: Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy, the Nazis.
The key elements in the actual practice of those groups were:
1. Rabid xenophobia and paranoia around enemies domestic and foreign.
2. Intrinsic mass violence as a primary means of keeping control.
3. Use of paramilitaries to further #2.
4. When push comes to shove, over-riding the corporate-oligarchic interests for their own power.
5. Namely in the end Fascism in actual practice is about the militarization of politics, society, and government.
Trying to define Fascism in some broader ‘anatomatical’ sense I think misses those fundamental points. It also helps move away from in my view totally useless debate about whether fascism is right or left wing–which is trying to fit the totalitarian fascist square peg into the liberal democratic left/right round hole. The term fascist works perfectly well for the thing most people mean by the term–Nazis, Italian Fascists, and the like. The term ain’t broke, so it doesn’t need any fixing. Or modification.
Meaning all of those factors are now in play in Iran. By pushing the protesting forces to call (and hopefully enact tomorrow) a mass general strike across the country the militarization faction is threatening the oligarchic faction. Many of the oligarchs are conservatives and rightly fear this militarization coup/agenda.
In other words, whatever I think the actions of fascists contradict Mussolini’s own self-definition (or was it rationalization?) of the movement.**
To quote Monty Python’s magisterial peasant: Come and See the Violence Inherent in the System.
Talking about corporate-government connections/alliances as the heart of Fascism reduces I think the term to almost total meaninglessness. What’s the scale? How much? How invasive? What does that really mean in real terms? Yes Fascists have generally aligned with certain domestic industries, but I think the history continues to show that the Fascists are really about militarization and will use corporate power to its ends, but when the militarization/public image of power is threatened the Fascist ultimate loyalty does not lie with the corporate interests. This is why though violence is pervasive to the maintenance of power in China I don’t consider them fascist; I think the Chinese ruling parties ultimately loyalties lie with money making and power not total militarization fueled by nationalistic hubris (though I admit the line can be fine at points).
While this definitional sideroad may seem like some unimportant point, I think it matters hugely. In US discussions, not limited to but certainly heavily in the blogosphere, people bandy around political F bombs–whether aimed at other parties, Obama, other blogs, whatever. I think it is a gross error, particularly when you see what real Fascism is; I find those kinds of discussion emotionally stunted and disconnected from the reality of actual people crushed under the oppressive fist.
Which doesn’t mean I necessarily buy 100% into Obama’s agenda. But could we please use other terms that would not strip fascist of the emotional charge the word should rightfully have? You can call it I don’t know corporate statism, progressive corporatism, progressive statism, something.
We don’t live in a Fascist state. If you want to see real Fascism, click those links (on that point I agree with Andrew).
** This post isn’t really meant to be a screed against Goldberg, that’s not my main focus. For one he’s by no means the only guilty party to this trend. And I don’t want the comments to become overloaded by arguments pro/con his book. Nevertheless you can imagine that if I think taking fascism out of the violence matrix is a huge mistake, then you can probably easily guess my reaction to making that mistake and then adding onto to it a fairly random text from H.G. Wells defining a thing called Liberal Fascism and then arguing from there to its anatomical enfleshment in the US Democratic Party as a form of as what he called a grand-niece or so of Fascism as you normally understand the term. The Other (White) Fascism as it were. Thereby claiming he can call liberals Fascists but when confronted say he did not mean “those kinds of fascists.” All the while himself being a huge supporter of the military-industrial complex and increased national security state surveillance domestically (how’s that for corporate-government merger?).